Riffs on P. Roth

Sabbath’s Theater. Gold standard of excellence? The loop’de loop! As much as I enjoyed Sabbath’s Theater, I didn’t loop it and won’t likely re-read it. So no Mobius strip for Mickey. But I do appreciate the nerve-jangling verve of Roth’s prose. Raw, primal, abrasive. Like ripping a scab off one’s elbow or knee. According to Kierkegaardian typology, Mickey is the aesthetic type or character, with this addition, he’s hell bent on turning self-disgust into a self-sustaining sensual experience. A kind of Don Juan meets Jackass idiot who self-injures for the perverse thrill of it all. Patrimony. Rothian hyper self-consciousness is refreshingly absent. He achieves a powerful aesthetic effect through simplicity and emotional honesty, as well as the vulnerability that’s born of love between father and son. My Life as a Man. “Salad Days!” That’s where it’s at. Extraordinary. Gutsy writing about a writer who tells a story multiple times before he nails the sweet spot a couple inches in and upCounterlife. A fantastic piece of writing about identity, anti-myths, and storytelling, about the imagination and its power to create fictive realities and realistic fictions, about the eros of language and the allure of the most beguiling orifice of all — the soft, plush, tender O’Keefian mouth! Portnoy’s Complaint. I have the right to deny the existence of liver! ‘Nuff said.


4 Responses to Riffs on P. Roth

  1. Fascinating riff! I’ve only read one Roth, The plot against America. However, I suspect it’s not his most typical? Did you read it? How would you riff on it?

  2. Kevin Neilson says:

    I did read Plot and enjoyed it but not as much as other Roth books. A proper riff requires at least one glass of wine. This last riff came on the heels of two. Unfortunately (?!) I’m stone-cold sober right now. Can you hear it? It’s playing softly in the background: “Homeward bound, I wish I was, home where my love lies waiting silently for me.” Once you got that tune, everything else follows. And it goes a little something like this. Hit it. Plot Against America. A counterfactual conditional in prose (huh? yep!), a sliding glass door, not for pal-pal-Paltrow but char-char-Lindbergh, through which he steps into imaginary history — and with him, fear and persecution and fear, all deftly garlanded by Roth around a tribute to the stability home. Home, where love and family lie waiting silently for you. Whisper, if you don’t like it, blame P. Roth or P. Simon! ‘Cause K. Neilson is all innocence…

  3. I like it … you done good sober! I wonder what you woulda done under the influence. The Simon, the Paltrow sliding door reference. It’s all good. I had long hard discussions on this one in an internet group where one person did NOT like it because it COULDN’T have happened. But that’s not the point, I said, this is about WHAT IF? But, she said, it COULDN’T have happened. And I said … well, you get the drift!!

  4. Colleen says:

    Your description of Sabbath’s Theatre is perfect, and perfectly explains why I disliked the book. Evil that isn’t directed primarily outwards isn’t very interesting to me; I wonder what Kierkegaard would say about that?

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